Friday, January 30, 2015


I belong to a wine tasting meetup group ( is an awesome site that brings people in your area with similar interests and/or tastes together). While I haven’t been as active as I should be, I still frequent the group page. Early December, I saw a posting for an alcohol-free January. Basically, purge your body of alcohol the month after arguably the heaviest 6 week drinking period of the year for those not living in New Orleans. I discovered that this was not unique to my meetup group. Quite a few people abstain from alcohol in January. In fact, I borrowed the term “Drynuary” from this Slate article

After contemplating over several glasses of wine, I decided to give it a try. There were a multitude of minor reasons why:

Weight loss

   I, like 99% of Americans, traditionally kick off the New Year by dieting. Drinking while dieting can cause various setbacks. Drinking any beer but Coors/Bud light brings in sneaky calories; especially yummy craft beers. In addition, after a few drinks, my resistance to pizza and buffalo wings lowers considerably.

Health benefits 

  We all know that after a night of heavy drinking, you’re probably going to pay for it the next day. I was curious if abstaining from alcohol would improve how I felt on a day-to-day basis.

Make sure I’m not a secret alcoholic

  I won’t lie. I like drinking. Even though I truly enjoy the taste of beer and wine, I like the buzz I get from it. Very rarely do I drink with intention of getting hammered, but I tend to lose track of how much I am drinking, especially at home. I’m pretty frugal when I shop (ask my wife), so a 30 pack of beer is considerably cheaper per once than a six-pack. When I’m out, I usually have to go through many more obstacles for each drink (bartender, triple the cost, settling the bill, drinking responsibly). At home it’s easy to grab one (or have somebody “sensuous” one), cost isn’t an issue, and you don’t have to worry about getting home.

I also enjoy a few drinks after a rough day. The phrase “you look like you need a drink” exists for a reason. Sometimes it is a little too easy to “justfy” a drink, especially when you have the previously mentioned 30-pack sitting in your fridge. I wanted to see if removing alcohol as an option would affect anything.

It Begins

Winter Lager goodness
  My Drynuary began promptly at midnight on New Years (or New Years morning if you want to be technical). I made sure to purge the house of any beers or open bottles of wine, save for the hard liquor (easy to resist for me) and a single bottle of Sam Adams Winter Lager that would be my first drink when it was over. Okay, I really just forgot about it because it was stuffed in the back of the fridge behind a salad, but I’m sure I subconsciously left it there for this reason.

  The month started pretty easy because were busy and the Broncos had a first round bye, so I didn’t care about football that weekend (more on that later). There was a momentary lapse when I was waiting in line at to purchase snow tubing tickets. The line was literally (not figuratively) an hour long, and halfway through someone brought the guy behind me a bottle of beer from the food stand. I was going to ask him to get me one, but I remembered that I wasn’t doing that anymore. In hindsight, it would have deadened the price shock of the tickets.

  I love karaoke, and headed out the first Tuesday of January to warm up my pipes for my America’s Got Talent audition in February (really! Feb 7 at 0800 in SF). I normally don’t require drinking to get up and sing karaoke, but I usually drink when I do. It would have been nice to have a beer while on stage that night.

  The next week was the first of three challenges. Well, four if you count my wife gleefully drinking wine in front of me.

  We went out for Salsa dancing and hanging out with friends. I’m not a big fan of dancing and usually have a drink or ten to take the edge off. I made it through the night with only a sip of alcohol, but that was to confirm that the disastrous drink the clueless bartender concocted was indeed “nasty”.

It's better than no beer at all...
Next, that weekend was the Divisional round of the AFC Playoffs. Like karaoke, my body usually associates beer with football. It felt odd watching the Saturday games without it. Sunday was the Broncos vs the Colts. I figured out an ingenious workaround; alcohol-free beer. I grabbed a 6-pack of O’Doul’s and poured me a pint while I watched the game. The O’Doul’s were okay, but nothing special, much like the Broncos team that lost to the Colts that day. I think I’m partially to blame for the loss. The football gods were outraged that I tried to find a loophole and subsequently caused Peyton Manning to suck.

  Finally, that night, my wife’s month-long burlesque class culminated in a spectacular on-stage performance downtown. We went out afterwards for sushi, then karaoke to celebrate. It was tempting to order something during and after the show, but I stuck with a coke. I did have a tiny sip of a hazelnut stout I bought for the wife, but that was just to see what it tasted like (confirmed: yummy).

  Week 3 was relatively void of temptation. There was one evening where I was a little stressed out about various things, and would have loved to have a glass of wine, but it was other-wise uneventful. I didn’t even bother with the non-alcoholic beer for the AFC/NFC Championship games, which probably was why Green Bay lost.

Definitely worth falling off the wagon for.
  I had intended on ending Drynuary a little early on the 24th. I needed to pick up wine from my wine club, and it would be criminal to drive all the way down to Scott Harvey winery and not do a tasting. Additionally, I felt I had proved my point, and I didn’t notice any difference since I started abstaining. Instead, Drynuary ended on January 19 at 6:18 PM. A friend of mine was heading up Karaoke at a
new location and a group of us went out for support. The bar sales were being watched during this trial run, so I decided to support her ended the experiment with a couple of pints of Great White beer.


Even though it ended short of its goal, I gained a lot of valuable information from my experiment. I had no noticeable weight loss. I experienced zero health benefits. I didn’t feel any better or worse, nor was I more or less tired during the day. I confirmed that I was not an alcoholic.  While I occasionally desired a drink, I was fine without it.

My wallet did benefit from Drynuary, but not quite as much as you’d think. At many places, a diet coke is almost as much as a glass of beer (and I think that’s a disservice to designated drivers everywhere).

I did notice that there were several situations where I’ve conditioned myself to associate with alcohol, particularly going out, karaoke, and football.

I’m proud of myself for doing it, despite it accomplishing very little. I would have liked to stuck it out until the Super Bowl (Feb 1), but I felt there was no further reason to continue. All in all, giving up caffeine for a week was far harder than giving up alcohol for three.  That was not a pretty sight…

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hey Jealousy

You know that feeling. Your co-worker bought that new car you've been dreaming of. Your best friend is suddenly in love, and you're left out. Your man is a little too close to that girl he's talking to. The guy in front of you bought the last bag of Cheetos. Your blood boils. You become obsessed and sometimes irrational. But you're certainly not jealous. Nope. That stuff only happens reality show "stars" and New York housewives.

Pretty much everyone is or has been jealous at one point in their lives. For the most part, it's harmless. Usually the worst thing about jealousy is having to spell it (why they don't just throw an "i" in it to complete the vowel family is beyond me). Sometimes it can ruin relationships. Sometimes it can strengthen them. The dangers of jealously lie in the severity of the person that has it, but also the way others react to it.

Most jealousy stems from either desire or fear. Sometimes it's justified, and sometimes it's unfounded.

There different categories and levels of jealousy. Interestingly enough, like everything else in life, I noticed they correlate with drinking.

Mild jealousy is like one or two beers. You get a slight buzz, and it usually makes you more sociable and open to things, but you are still in full control of your own devices.

Mild jealousy is healthy for the most part. This level of jealousy usually drives us to do better. If you're jealous of the six pack abs of the guy next to you, you'll use that jealousy to either get a six pack of your own, or dismiss it as something you really didn't want anyway. 

 You can be jealous of a team’s success and use that for a good nature rivalry. Mild jealousy is also healthy to relationships. Seeing your significant other occasionally jealous is a nice ego boost and a reminder that they still desire you.

The next level of jealousy is similar to a person after 3-4 drinks. You become a wild card and can go either way. Either the life of the party, or the depressed dude in the corner clutching his drink.

Mid-level jealousy beings to walk a fine line. Sometimes this level is justified. There is a legitimate reason to be jealous, but there isn’t enough evidence. This jealousy can shed light onto the problem if you’re right. Unfortunately it can make things worse if you’re wrong. Being jealous of a female friend of your boyfriend could be based on signs you are seeing, but perhaps he isn’t. It could also be that you are misinterpreting those signs.  Either way you have a legitimate reason to be jealous, but it’s at the point to where something needs to happen to diffuse it. At this level, like drinking, you still have some rational control, but you’re teetering on the edge and in danger of losing sight of reality.

While everyone has different drink tolerances, there comes a time when you’ve had too many and you’re just making an as of yourself. You become irrational, argumentative, and oblivious to your environment.

This is the same with full-blown jealousy. At this level, jealousy is rooted in paranoia. Forbidding your child to play with a neighbor because you think they are so perfect and flaunting every purchase. Preventing your wife from even talking to a man. Trying to sabotage a co-worker because you think they keep getting praised by the boss.

Full blown jealousy needs to be called out immediately. Just like your drunk friend puking in the lawn, they need help returning to reality. Don’t do it while they are upset, because they won’t listen, but they need to hear things from an unbiased perspective. Sometimes, like alcohol, it never gets better you have to remove them from the problem. Other times, you can get talked down to a more reasonable level.

Just like drinking, jealousy in moderation isn’t a bad thing. In some instances it’s actually a good thing. Like many things, it is something that can snowball into something unmanageable. Seeing the signs in yourself, or your friends and loved ones can help prevent jealousy from going over-board and passing out in your bathtub.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

This House is not a Home

  Life in the military is filled with moving. In my 21 year (and counting) career, I’ve moved to 14 different houses. In the past two years, we’ve moved four times, and are prepping for a 5th. Not all of these moves were initiated by the military, but the majority of them were influenced by it at one point or another.

The driveway is about a quarter
 of the house in Guam
   In all of these moves, I’ve lived in homes just about every shape and size. From a tiny 2 bedroom apartment to an almost tinier 3 bedroom “house” in Guam, to the giant house we currently dwell in. With all these places to live, I’ve learned quite a bit of what I do and don’t want in a home. The old saying is “home is where you hang your hat”, but I tend to disagree. Most things I want in a home are flexible, but there is one thing I long for. A place that is truly “home”.

   When you join the military, one of the first things they tell you is “I hope you like travel”. This is quite true. There are some minor exceptions, but you are virtually guaranteed to retire with several bases under your belt (seven for this Airman). This creates a bit of a nomadic nature for you and your families. It’s hard to put down roots when you know that you can be moving at any time. True, the military features some minimum time at each base, but once you pass that, moving orders can drop any day. This creates a whole multitude of challenges for military families, but I’m focusing on the place where you hang your hat.

   Some brave souls buy a home and gamble that they’ll be at the base long enough to not suffer a loss when they sell it, but most rent. Our family in particular has been to a lot of “overseas” locations (though still in the States; Alaska, Guam, and Hawaii), so we didn’t have many opportunities to buy a home. We considered in Hawaii, but thankfully we didn’t because it was just before the housing crash.

   When you rent a house, it already doesn’t quite feel like home because you can’t do a whole lot with it. Every ding and dent that adds character and history to an owned home just removes money from your security deposit. Even if you get the landlord’s blessing to paint and decorate, you’re hesitant because it hardly seems to be worth the effort if you’re going to move anyway. Many moves I’ve lefty many things packed because I didn’t want to bother.

   My current base is guaranteed to be my last due to my time in service, but I’m still renting. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure if we were going to stay in the area. Then I met my now wife, and we needed to move quickly to accommodate our suddenly bigger family. My job status was in limbo thanks to budget cuts, so we rented our current (huge) home. Unfortunately it hasn’t turned out so well.

Yes, they do test missiles here
   There is an awesome 80’s movie called “The Money Pit” starring Tom Hanks and Shelly Long. If they ever shot a sequel, they could use this one. The owners apparently were very interested in do-it-yourself projects. Unfortunately, they could have used some quality control. The toilet downstairs leaks (from the bottom). The garage door openers don’t work. The pretty fake stone on the steps of the stairs have claimed many toes in the middle of the night. The dishwasher is lopsided. The stone sink collapsed due to minimal support underneath. The granite island is not only too heavy for the original island base, it’s too big and consequently, the fridge can’t be removed. There are exposed seams and unfinished spots all over the house.  All the little quirks mentioned above are bearable things The overall house still looks nice. We haven’t been electrocuted (yet), and the roof has held up well to all the rain. Plus it has a pool!

   Thankfully, we didn’t buy it like the couple in the movie, but it has nearly broken us up at various points due to one very glaring fault.  It’s very noisy.

   With kids, you’d expect any house to be a little noisy; especially teenagers. This one, however, is far worse because of the construction. The front room acts as a funnel of sound into the main bedroom. The kitchen and den is directly underneath the main bedroom as well. In the den, the ceiling has speakers installed for surround sound. This seemed like an awesome feature when we moved in. The first time the kids watched something while we were upstairs, it was like the tv was in our room.
My Speaker solution
   I decided to see if I could use the existing wiring on the ceiling speakers and mount my own speakers on the wall so it wasn’t in direct contact with the ceiling. When I popped the first speaker off, I immediately saw the problem. There was no insulation between floors, so the space between floors was basically a giant speaker box. If we owned this house, I’d just put up insulation, but since it isn’t ours, I’m not spending my money to fix it.

   The lack of insulation also helps explain why it seems like everyone slams counter doors and dishes. Our theory was confirmed when we stayed at a small house in Los Angeles, and we couldn’t hear a thing when the kids were downstairs.

   Besides the noise, the house is just too darn big. I know that sounds like a nice problem to have, and it’s certainly better than being too small, but it has its drawbacks. One of the biggest is increased electricity cost, especially during the summer.

   Another drawback is that the larger the house, the more junk you accumulate. I always thought a larger house would appear cleaner, but that’s not the case. We have a huge bedroom, which again, I didn’t think would be a problem. We looked at another home with a much smaller bedroom, and it felt much cozier and comfortable. I do like having a large living room, but for the most part, bigger is not always better.

   So, armed with all this information we are preparing to search for a new house. We want to buy something and make it our own. We want a home. Hopefully we’ve learned enough lessons to find exactly what we want. Hopefully, this is our last move for a long time